>U Mom Knows Best: What Preemie Moms Need to Know About Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Monday, July 31, 2023

What Preemie Moms Need to Know About Necrotizing Enterocolitis

 Welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting yet stressful experience, especially if your little one comes too soon. Caring for premature infants is stressful and difficult, as they require round-the-clock specialized care, and they are highly vulnerable to numerous diseases. It’s essential that you be informed about the dangers your newborn faces so that you can reduce the risks and help them grow up healthy and strong.

 A little-known danger that is prevalent amongst premature infants is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease wherein intestinal inflammation encourages bacterial overgrowth and, eventually, damage to the gastrointestinal system. 

 What causes NEC? What are the symptoms? What can you do should your child be diagnosed with this potentially fatal disorder? We’ll discuss that, as well as how to prevent this problem, in today’s article.

Causes of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

 Firstly, necrotizing enterocolitis is a disease almost exclusively associated with premature infants, those who were born before 37 weeks of gestation. These infants have underdeveloped immune systems which cannot easily fight off infections that may otherwise be unproblematic in full-term babies. As such, they are highly vulnerable to environmental pathogens, including those in formula and other foods.

 Necrotizing enterocolitis is caused by intestinal inflammation, often due to cow’s milk-based formulas, which leads to bacterial infections in the intestinal tract. As the cells grow inflamed and die off, this leads to necrosis, or the death of all or most of the cells in a particular organ. 

Symptoms of NEC

 Unfortunately, the symptoms of NEC are very nonspecific, particularly at first. Infants may show fatigue, lethargy, poor feeding, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal tenderness. As many babies are fussy, sleepy, or have a runny stool, parents - especially first-time mothers - may believe they are overreacting, and they might be turned away by doctors and assured that this is normal. This can lead to delays in treatment that may lead to serious complications.

 There may also be blood in the child’s stool and, as the disease progresses, trouble breathing or unresponsiveness. At this point, the child may require intestinal resection, which means that the dead portions of the bowel are cut out, and the surviving tissue is stitched together. At first, the child will be given antibiotics and fed through a tube to allow the bowels to rest and regenerate; if this doesn’t work, they may require surgery, where surgeons will cut out the damaged portions of the bowel and reconnect the remaining tissue. 

What to Do if Your Child Is Diagnosed with NEC

 If your child has been diagnosed with NEC, the first thing you must do is work diligently to get them the medical treatment they need. As the doctors care for your child, it’s time to reach out to other professionals who can assist you in getting answers - and justice - for what has happened to your little one. 

 NEC is closely associated with feeding bovine-based baby formulas, which are marketed as safe for preemies despite the well-known risks. If you have fed your premature infant certain formulas, including Simulac and Enfamil, you should consult with an attorney regarding a potential NEC baby formula lawsuit, which can provide the compensation and closure that you and your family deserve. Medical care for infants suffering from NEC is incredibly expensive, and as such, it’s vital that you pursue options to receive compensation for this severe negligence on behalf of baby formula manufacturers, who knew the risks to premature infants but did little to reduce the danger.

How to Prevent NEC

 One of the best ways to prevent NEC in preemies is to breastfeed: Mother’s milk is the safest and most effective nutrition, as it adjusts to meet your child’s nutritional needs as they grow. However, it’s not always possible to breastfeed, especially if your child was premature due to pregnancy complications and you yourself are still recuperating.

 In this instance, you should seek safer baby formulas that have higher manufacturing standards. Explore your baby formula options, including ordering from abroad, in order to safely satisfy your child’s nutritional needs. You may also consider using donated breast milk, which many hospitals will stock in order to feed premature infants. 

 It’s important to note that some formulas, such as rice milk-based formulas, are also not safe for newborns due to the high levels of arsenic naturally present in rice. Consult with your child’s medical team in order to identify what would be safest for them based on how premature they are and any other special nutrition needs they may have. 

 With research, diligence, and tender loving care, you can keep your premature infant safe from risks such as NEC. However, should your child be diagnosed with this devastating disease, know that you have options and resources in order to receive justice for your child. 


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